“Period Flu”: The largely unknown PMS symptom is the reason why people often feel sick before their menstrual period
Fever, chills, headache, sore throat and body aches are typical symptoms of flu; but they can also be typical signs that the cycle is coming to an end and (once again) the next menstruation is due. In fact, common cold symptoms are among the many symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, as are water retention, abdominal pain, anxiety, and night sweats (among other things). So if you have the feeling of getting sick before your period, you probably suffer from the so-called “period flu”.
What is meant by the term “Period Flu”?
“The ‘Period Flu’ or period flu is not a real medical diagnosis, but refers to various symptoms that can occur during or before a menstrual period,” says gynecologist Prof. Dr. Mandy Mangler, chief physician at the Auguste-Viktoria-Krankenhaus (Vivantes) in Schöneberg, Berlin, and at the Klinikum Neukölln, host of the podcast “Gyncast” and expert at the women’s health platform MySummer.de. “Some of these are similar to the flu, such as headaches, general malaise, or even skin sensitivity, but you can’t transmit them and infect others.” But even if the “Period Flu” is not a “real” flu infection, that does not change the fact that it feels real and that its various symptoms can influence everyday life.
“Period Flu”: These symptoms can accompany it
The classic symptoms of “Period Flu” include complaints that are known from a cold. These can include headache, sore throat, body aches, cough, fever, chills, nausea and fatigue, according to Prof. Dr. Mangler could also be accompanied by the “Period Flu” the desire to want to retire.
This triggers cold symptoms before menstruation
The “Period Flu” has hardly been scientifically studied. Therefore, the cause is not fully clarified. However, it is believed that period flu, like PMS, is caused by hormonal fluctuations before menstruation. This in turn means that you are more susceptible to infections: “The immune system is less active in the second half of the cycle. This can promote infections and infections. For some, this manifests itself, for example, in recurring herpes diseases,” says Prof. Dr. Mandy Mangler. A study by the Louisiana State University Health Science Center from 2022 also suggests that the fluctuating estrogen and serotonin levels are primarily responsible for the “period flu” symptoms.
However, hormone fluctuations not only influence the immune system, allergies can also be promoted, especially before ovulation and before menstruation, i.e. in the second half of the cycle. In addition, the menstrual cycle has an effect on the histamine level, which is primarily noticeable before and during menstruation. Although histamine intolerance is not an allergy but a metabolic disorder, it manifests itself, similar to hay fever, in sneezing, a stuffy nose, coughing and asthma. Other symptoms can include gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, a rash or swollen eyelids. Such a histamine intolerance can increase menstrual and PMS symptoms.
This helps with “Period Flu”
The bad news first: You can’t really prevent the flu-like symptoms before menstruation. Prof. Dr. However, Mandy Mangler recommends a generally healthy lifestyle in order to stabilize the hormone balance and the immune system: “Anyone who wants to counteract the ‘Period Flu’ can pay attention to general hygiene such as regular hand washing. But a balanced diet, sufficient exercise and sleep also help the immune system. If you take that into account, you don’t need to take any additional vitamins.” The good news is that symptoms usually subside once your period begins. So if you have the feeling that you are suffering from cold symptoms during the cycle, you should track your cycle. This way you get a better feeling for signs of illness and can assess them better. Sometimes just knowing that you are not “really” sick and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is enough to make you feel better.